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To Peru, for a Cause

Sargent students learn about traditional medicine

At an altitude of 11,000 feet, 14 Sargent College students spent two weeks of summer 2015 learning that not all ailments call for Advil and MRIs. At least not in Peru. The undergrad and grad students, studying various disciplines, learned about the country’s reliance on traditional, homeopathic medicines, and about its transition to modern health care through visits to both public and private hospitals.

“At Sargent, we’re committed to a holistic approach to teaching our students,” says Anna Monahan, a SAR lecturer in health sciences, who led the trip with Shelley Brown (SPH’07), a SAR clinical assistant professor. “It’s so important to understand traditional medicine, because you will not have any success dealing with anyone from any kind of traditional background or with a traditional belief system if you disregard that. You’re not going to get a desirable outcome.”

If a doctor in Peru, where women give birth in a standing position, were to instruct a Peruvian woman to lie down while giving birth (as women in most American hospitals do), says Monahan, the woman would lose trust in the clinic and wouldn’t want to give birth there.

“We visited a birthing center, and it was really eye-opening for the students to see, listen, and learn about the respect the staff have for women in these clinics, and the way they deliver,” Brown says. “I think students asked really good, deep questions and will bring that back into their work here.”

The group of next-generation health care workers also connected with locals in remote farming villages outside the Inca capital of Cusco, where they learned about sustainable agriculture and cooking in the mountain area. The students in turn conducted health and hygiene workshops for local residents. “We got to see some of the plants that go into making traditional oils,” says Hannah Kuegler (SAR’17). “They can help with anything from altitude to allergies.”

“In this day and age, we’re always trying to find better treatments, and I think it’s important to return to the past and learn from people who have done much of the same research that we are doing,” says Victoria Cahill (SAR’18). “We always get prescriptions for things. We don’t like to stop and see how our bodies connect with the world, but in Peru, it’s natural remedies. It’s been an amazing opportunity.”

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu. Jason Kimball can be reached at jk16@bu.edu.

Alan Wong

Alan Wong can be reached at alanwong@bu.edu.

3 Comments on To Peru, for a Cause

  • Auria WEST on 09.30.2015 at 12:04 pm


  • Michael on 09.23.2016 at 7:06 am

    Well done! I have always believed in a mix – natural and medical treatment, maybe plus some meditation. Only this way you can get back to health.

  • Ashelee on 11.13.2016 at 11:03 am

    Truly remarkable. Being able to see the basics of medicines must’ve been quite the experience. I’ve always been curious about the nomadic practices, with the simplicity & complexity it carries.
    You guys should make an article explaining how to use these practices at home. From growing specific plants to extracting oils & the nesessary ingredients to create medicine. It’d be very intriguing to learn about.

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